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The Untold Truth Of Khonshu From Moon Knight

Contains spoilers for "Moon Knight" Episode 1.

The Disney+ corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just received its arguably strangest addition yet, as Moon Knight and his assorted personalities (all played by Oscar Isaac) begin their struggle against the intimidating Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) ... and, on occasion, between themselves. 

The introductory episode of a new show often has a lot of world-building to do, but "Moon Knight" Episode 1 opts to focus on building atmosphere instead. The viewpoint character of this episode is museum worker Steven Grant, who's busy trying to cope with strange memory lapses that he's been experiencing for a while. As the episode goes on, the viewer finds out that Steven seems to share his body with a mysterious figure called Marc, and an even more mysterious disembodied voice that seems to belong to a creepy, giant mythological figure keeps pestering him to give control to this other guy. 

As comics fans may already know, the entity in question is Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), a moon god who is the source of Moon Knight's power. But who — or what — is this intimidating deity, and what can you expect from him in the show? Let's take a look at the untold truth of Khonshu from "Moon Knight." 

He's more than just a moon god

The comic book version of Khonshu is, indeed, a moon god, but that's far from everything that falls within his purview. The moon is indeed very much his thing, but the things he's almost as consistently associated with are somewhat more abstract, yet potentially more dangerous: Protection and vengeance. 

The protection part of Khonshu manifests as his apparent mission statement to look after the people who travel in the night, and vengeance is what he rains upon the people who harm the nocturnal folks who fall under his protection. Moon Knight is, in effect, his tool to accomplish these dual missions: Because Khonshu can't have a physical presence on Earth himself, he's in the habit of choosing human beings as his avatars. 

Khonshu has been at it for quite a while, and Steven-slash-Marc is far from the first Moon Knight. In fact, the first known person to bear the Moon Knight mantle in the comics is from 1,000,000 B.C.

He isn't really an Egyptian deity

The fact that there have been Moon Knights since at least 1,000,000 B.C. is fascinating, because Ancient Egypt as we know it started in 3,100 B.C. or so, per History. Given that Moon Knight is explicitly an avatar of and powered by Khonshu, this would make the deity considerably older than the Egyptian Ennead pantheon he's technically associated with.

This is no accident because, at least in the comics, he's a very, very, very old god. In "King in Black: Black Knight," major Marvel Comics big bad Knull heavily insinuates that Khonshu is essentially a primordial entity of some kind. The moon god has merely spent a part of his existence as an Egyptian deity, because he kind of got caught up in the mythology. 

It remains to be seen whether "Moon Knight" intends to go all-in with Khonshu's background, or if it just chooses to roll with the "Egyptian moon deity" concept, as his design seems to imply. In any case, the deep dive background is right there in the source material, should the show choose to take things in a particularly wild direction.

He's much stronger than you think

The Avengers have a pretty good track record in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite copious bickering, the team has managed to put down all sorts of threats, from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to Ultron (voiced by James Spader) to Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin). 

All of this might be about to change because while Khonshu mostly restricts himself to all things Moon Knight in the comics, he can be a massive threat when he actually decides to apply himself. A prime example of this is the "Age of Khonshu" comic book storyline, where the god takes upon himself to steal the powers of some of the most powerful Avengers out there, and fuses them with his own in order to become the latest villain to shape Manhattan in his image — oh, and to repeatedly kick Mephisto's behind. 

There are plenty of layers and mitigating factors to the story, of course. Still, it's worth mentioning that Mephisto – Marvel's version of the devil — has been rumored as a potential MCU Big Bad since "WandaVision" or thereabouts. Now that the MCU has introduced Khonshu, who historically can and absolutely will attempt to punch Mephisto's lights out should the opportunity present itself, fans might have to wait a while longer before the devil proxy dares to turn up in the mega-franchise.

He's not always an ally to Moon Knight

In the very first episode of "Moon Knight," Khonshu comes across as kind of a jerk, snarking and complaining about Steven during life-or-death situations. Later, he chooses to manifest in a frankly terrifying way during the elevator scene. During the museum confrontation, knowledgeable villain Arthur Harrow even remarks that the voices inside the head can be pretty hard on you, and he presumably isn't talking about Marc.

This is pretty much in line with Khonshu's portrayal in the comics, especially in recent years. Khonshu, you see, might be a protective deity, but that doesn't make him a nice one. Writer Jeff Lemire's iconic comic book run, in particular, makes the lunar god an outright villain who isn't above manipulating his poor avatar in some pretty wild ways to further his plans. 

Luckily for the MCU version of "Moon Knight," Khonshu also has a pretty extensive history of being "merely" arrogant and pompous, while still technically playing ball for the good guys' team. It will definitely be fascinating to see which direction the show will take with the entity.

He's based on actual Egyptian mythology

Odin, Thor, Loki, and other ancient Norwegian deities are pretty well-known in popular culture, so it's pretty easy to see where their MCU versions draw inspiration from — and people who are familiar with the mythology have a pretty good idea of what their general characteristics are before they even utter a single line. Khonshu, on the other hand, may not be quite as familiar to the Western masses, but despite the fact that his comic book version seems to have been around way before Ancient Egypt, he's actually very much based on real-world mythology.

Egyptian mythology features an actual moon god called Khonshu (also known as Chons, Khons, and arguably Khenzu), according to Encyclopedia Britannica. This original version, however, is a far cry from the Marvel comics' creepy bird skull-headed deity, which is also the character's design in "Moon Knight." Instead, the mythological Khonshu tends to take the form of a young person, and the animal most closely linked with him is the baboon.